Temps are low in Nome, but electric bills may be high, utility warns

Assistant Utility Manager for NJUS Ken Morton. (KNOM photo)

Many in Nome will see higher electric bills when they get their next monthly statement from Nome Joint Utility System.

That’s not due to any rate hikes, but rather the logistics of keeping things warm in subzero temperatures as Nome is experiencing a couple-week cold snap, with temperatures sinking to 20 below and colder. Assistant Utility Manager for NJUS Ken Morton says that at this time of year there are lots of things that contribute to inflated residential electric bills.

“Plugging in their vehicles at night, folks that use space heaters, thaw wire systems… Those are the big draws. But also, the furnaces are running more which means there’s more electric motors for blowers and fans and all that adds up.”

Total amount for individuals will vary depending on the types of appliances used and the size of the space a resident wants to heat, but on average, Morton roughly estimates that a 1500 kW space heater can add $12 a day to a bill.

He also estimates an increase daily of about $5 for engine heaters and $2 for the heat trace.

Still, those are expenses that Miranda Musich recommends residents consider paying. Musich is one of the owners of the Tundra Tinkerer and over the course of less than a week, she estimates they’ve serviced about ten incidents of frozen pipes and still have more to handle.

“Make sure the heat trace and circulation pump are on. We’ve been running into a lot of people that wait until everything is frozen up before plugging them in,” she said

According to Musich, servicing an exploded pipe could be $300-600 depending on the damage and if it’s an emergency or not. That cost is before the replacement of the pipe itself.

And for Nomeites traveling out of town, Musich recommends they have a good house-sitter who will run the lines while they’re away. And if something does to start to freeze, she urges people to be prepared by knowing the correct water valves to turn off and on.

“If you have a burst pipe you want to turn off the section that is supplying water to where that pipe is but you’ve got to be careful not to shut off the water in the wrong spot because you can create a major freeze-up between your house and the city water line,” she said.

But there’s some good news. Looking at a graph of electric production from the last twelve months, Morton says Nome’s energy use is down from last year.

“Compared to last year, I don’t think that this cold snap has been as pronounced,” he said.

NJUS operations have been pretty standard, he says, and according to Morton no city buildings have had any major incidents with frozen pipes thus far.

Most Nome residents are able to call NJUS Customer Service to get information on their daily usage before their statement.  Morton says that people who are concerned about high electrical bills should be mindful of the appliances they are using and how much they are running.